Civilian casualties soar to record high in Afghanistan, says UN report

Four per cent increase recorded in overall civilian casualties in Afghanistan compared to the same period in 2015,?Director of the UN Human Rights Program, Danielle Bell said. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Kabul, Afghanistan Jul 25, 2016, 10.39 AM (IST)
Civilians are being killed and wounded in record numbers in Afghanistan, the United Nations reported today, just days after one of the deadliest attacks ever in Kabul.

"UNAMA engages in ongoing dialogue with all parties to the conflict and the report has been shared in advance," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the top UN official in Afghanistan, at a news conference today, referring to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

"We share our report to ensure its accuracy and to include different perspectives, but above all our primary objective is to promote change," he added.

Overall at least 1,601 civilians were killed and 3,565 wounded in the war in the first six months of 2016, the United Nations reported, as insurgent groups like the Taliban try to topple the government installed in Kabul after the 2001 US-led military intervention.

The director of the UN Human Rights Program in Afghanistan, Danielle Bell, said this represented a "four per cent increase in overall civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2015".

The report was sharply critical of the Taliban. "Anti-government elements including the Taliban nonetheless continued to carry out attacks against persons and locations that are clearly civilian under international humanitarian law," Bell said.

Anti-government groups, the largest of which is the Taliban, accounted for at least 60 percent of non-combatants killed and wounded.

Casualties caused by pro-government forces increased 47 per cent over the same period last year, the United Nations said.

Afghan forces were responsible for 22 per cent of casualties overall, and the international troops remaining in the country caused 2 per cent, while 17 per cent could not be attributed to one side or the other.

For the first time, the Afghan air force killed or wounded more civilians in its operations than air strikes carried out by international forces, the United Nations reported.

UN officials said they had heard more commitments by both sides, but few effective actions to improve protection of civilians.

Twin blasts on July 23 were claimed by Islamic State militants and killed at least 80 people and injured more than 230, most of them civilians.

Those numbers are not included in the UN report, but the attack highlighted its finding that suicide bombings and complex attacks are now harming more civilians than are roadside bombs, Bell told reporters.

Islamic State, a group that has made some limited inroads in Afghanistan, accounted for 122 casualties in the first six months of 2016 compared with 13 casualties attributed to it in the same period last year.

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